Imagine a scenario where the best team in baseball at 26 games over .500 is up 7-1 after three and a half innings. Imagine in this scenario that the team they’re beating is eight games under .500 and potentially circling the drain. We all know the outcome of that game, right?
You’re reading this, so you clearly know what happened. But in case you’ve been living without any access to the outside world and your first item on your to-do list was to check BP Kansas City, this is exactly the scenario the Royals faced last night against the Houston Astros, a team on an 11-game winning streak.
Jake Junis somehow escaped damage in the first two innings but couldn’t skate by much longer and ended up giving up seven runs over 3.2 innings. In April, this is an automatic loss. The offense has looked a little better lately, so you thought the Royals might be able to at least plate a few runs to make it sort of interesting, but nobody could have expected what happened.
I guess we should have known we were in for something special when Alex Gordon actually hit a baseball over the wall in fair territory. It seemed like something that might never happen, but he hit a ball 106.4 MPH just to the right of center for a 433 feet bomb of a home run. It made the score 3-1 before the Astros would tack on four more, but I mean, come on, a Gordon homer? That’s the beginning of a storybook game.
The comeback started in the sixth when Mike Moustakas plated Eric Hosmer with a single, but the unsung heroes from this game are the middle relievers who held the Astros scoreless from the fifth inning on.
When the Royals called up Junis to start this game, they sent down Seth Maness when I expected them to send down Kevin McCarthy. Little did I know yesterday afternoon how big of a decision that would prove to be in this game. McCarthy finished the fourth and then got through the fifth and the sixth without giving up a single run. He punctuated his outing with a strikeout of future Royals Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran.
With the score 7-3, Ned Yost was still in concession mode and put Travis Wood in the game. They were 2-16 when Wood pitched heading into this one. He wasn’t even the guy to go when the team was up by multiple runs. They saved him for games just like this one where it probably wouldn’t matter much if he gave up one or two. And let’s be real, he had a 9.31 ERA when the game began, so he was going to give up a run. Except he didn’t. He went two scoreless innings. The man who had given up runs in 12 of his 18 outings went two scoreless against the best team in baseball.
Yeah, this night was going to be special.
The Royals went 1-2-3 in the seventh and Eric Hosmer had a really ugly strikeout to start the eighth, but then some #RoyalsDevilMagic started to happen.
Perez singled on a real doinker. It had a 20 percent hit probability. Then Moustakas ripped one down the right field line to move Perez to third. Cheslor Cuthbert came to the plate and hit a ball so softly that it made Perez’s doinker look like a rocket. It was 60 MPH off the bat and traveled all of 161 feet, but it got past Jose Altuve to drive in Salvy.
After Escobar made yet another out, the newly confident Alex Gordon came to the plate as the tying run. How great of a story would that be after the start of his season?
Okay, it would have been pretty cool. A walk is less cool, but it kept the inning alive for the new leadoff hitter. Remember a few days ago that Alcides Escobar would have been the one stepping to the plate in this situation. This is better, no?
Anyway, Whit ripped a three-run double to tie the score before Bonifacio struck out to end the inning. It was all a really 2015 Royals-esque inning.
Soul Crushing Double
Mike Minor came on in the top of the ninth and looked sharp, but was still in a skosh of trouble. A dazzling play by Escobar got Alex Bregman to end the inning and send the game to the bottom of the ninth where the Royals had the middle of the order due up.
After two quick outs were made and extra innings seemed pending, Salvador Perez just poked a ball through a wide open hole where Altuve usually stands. That set things up for Moose.
107.7 MPH, 418 feet, game over.
People will try to apply meaning to this game. They’ll say it’s the catalyst to get them back into the race. They’ll say the Royals are back. Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re not. Sometimes a team that’s eight games under .500 can make a dramatic six-run comeback against a team that’s 26 games over and riding an 11-game winning streak. Whether this game was a momentary reprieve from a difficult season or the start of something big is unknown at this time, but what is known is that a good comeback is awfully fun to watch.